20 February 2018


The Shade Retractable Windshield Sunshade

Quick retractable auto shade

Conventional car shades are unwieldy, prone to slipping off, and awkward to store.

The Shade requires careful installation, but thereafter takes only a second to put up or roll away. This makes one much more likely to use it regularly, resulting in fewer surprises when those clouds vanish midday. It is well built, sturdy, and reliable. The retraction mechanism on my original unit is as strong and smooth as on a new one; I know, because I’ve bought eight more of these shades over the years for friends and family. The glue for the mounting brackets is strong stuff, my right-hand brackets fell off this summer, but that was after six years of New Mexico sun. Replacement brackets were $5, and my Shade is now remounted and ready for another six years.

They are sized to fit different car models.

-- Ed Santiago 02/20/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

19 February 2018


Hi-Lift Jack

Moving up

When trying to move Very Large Objects don’t forget the Hi-Lift Jack, able to lift 7000 lbs 4 feet or more. After a flood moved a 60 ft. barn where I lived, I moved it right back where it belonged with that jack, and a few pulls on a come-along. The Hi-Lift is great for extracting fence posts, too. While living on a nature preserve, I jacked out several miles of steel fence posts and dozens of big gate posts complete with concrete wad still stuck on using a Hi-Lift Jack. Also levelled our house, which was 6 inches out of level, one click per day, without breaking any windows. No problems. It’s a big bad beast, but a good-‘un. It can also serve as a high labor, low frequency log splitter (good upper body exercise)! You can buy wheels for it (but they’ll only work on smooth hard surfaces) and a neat “sheath” for stowing it theft-resistantly in or on your vehicle. However, as someone once told me: “Never let go of the handle while lowering the load or you’ll EAT TEETH!” — a worthwhile reminder for users of this pre-OSHA device.

The Hi-Lift comes in a number of lengths in either cast or steel. I like the cast model best, as it seems to be more durable in heavy use. The 60-incher is not rated to take a full load to 60 inches, and it is heavy enough to be damned awkward to carry around. The 48″ is perfectly fine — though no lightweight — and the one I use.

-- J. Baldwin 02/19/18

(Northern Tool and Harbor Freight both carry a Chinese-made version, called a Farm Jack for $50. Available from Northern Tool & Equipment. -- KK This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

18 February 2018


Play blues guitar/Best belts/Pain exercise

Recomendo: issue no. 81

Learn to play blues guitar in 10 minutes
I’ve been building 3-string guitars for about 10 years. It’s easy to do and they sound better than you probably think. Learn how to make one at Cigar Box Nation. They are even easier to play. Here’s a 10-minute video that will have you sounding like you know what you’re doing. — MF

Best belts
I no longer use leather belts. I use only nylon web belts, sometimes called tactical or military belts, even for dress. They look like a belt but since they don’t have holes, they are infinitely adjustable. And they use hard plastic for the buckle so I don’t have to remove it in airports. There are many styles and colors, all can be trimmed for length. The one I use is this generic model. — KK

Pain management skill
I love Brené Brown’s exercise of repeating “Pain, pain, pain, pain, pain,” to instantly release yourself of the fight or flight mentality. I first heard it in her Men, Women, and Worthiness talk (which I highly recommend), but the full embarrassing story behind it can be read here. — CD

Highlight text on web pages and share
The Marker.to chrome extension is handy for highlighting text on any web page and sharing. A special link is created for you to copy and paste and any one can view your highlighted page without having to download the extension. — CD

The best scratching post
I love the $40 SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post as much as my cats do. Not because I sharpen my claws on it, but because they’ve stopped destroying the carpets and furniture. As an unintended bonus, the top has a very small perch that one of my cats practically lives on. — MF

Secure travel docs
I stow PDF scans of my passport, visas, itinerary and key travel docs in my Dropbox, which show up in the Dropbox app on my phone so I always have them in case of loss while traveling overseas. — KK

Recomendo now has a Facebook page! Follow us for daily recommendations.


17 February 2018


Three Jaw Brace

Human-powered driver

Ever have to fight with a thirty foot cord on a cold day? This tool has no cord. And no batteries. No worry about theft, obsolescence, charging. Imagine being able to remove #4 Phillips screws, long embedded with their heads effectively stripped before they were painted over. By hand. The same tool, with a “no moving parts” adapter, is a speed wrench for 3/8″ drive sockets. And you can use 1/4″ hex bits as well.

The traditional hand brace does all this, and weighs less than a commercial-duty battery pack. That’s why I have two old braces in my on-site tool kit, where I do a vast array of kludge-like repairs to building systems — everything from removing the third set of windows in a building’s life, to re-hanging wood and steel doors (remember those stripped, self-tapping, Phillips screws?), boring holes to run a fish-tape through, and taking mechanical stuff apart.

It will accept traditional square-taper auger bits, and with its three jaw chuck, any round or hex shank tool up to about 15 mm (9/16″) diameter. This, together with two power tools — a 25-year-old Black and Decker screw gun, and a Makita 7 1/4″ circular saw — makes my tool kit.

-- Lou Parsons 02/17/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

16 February 2018


Fluke VoltAlert

Electricity finder

This is a non-conductive (plastic), non-contact voltage sensor that glows red and/or beeps in the vicinity of an energized conductor. In other words, it lights up near a “live” wire. You don’t actually have to make contact to see if the line is hot. It lights up even if there is no load on the line, since it senses the electric field, not the magnetic field. It’s much easier to use than a contact indicator light or meter. It works for AC line voltages. Also it only lights up when near the “hot” line, not the ground or neutral, so you can immediately see if an outlet is wired backwards. Works great for finding the dead Christmas light bulb on a series string of lights too (not as easy though when you have two or more strands braided together.) I always rub it against my shirt first to see if it is working. Static discharge sets it off. A number of vendors besides Fluke make this type of device, but Fluke is a high quality name brand.

-- Bruce Bowen 02/16/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

15 February 2018


Nelson Dellis, USA Memory Champion

Cool Tools Show 111: Nelson Dellis

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $359 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF


Our guest this week is Nelson Dellis. Nelson is one of the leading memory experts in the world, traveling around the world as a Memory Consultant and Keynote Speaker. A four-time USA Memory Champion, mountaineer, and Alzheimer’s disease activist, he preaches a lifestyle that combines fitness, both mental and physical, with proper diet and social involvement.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page


Show notes:

Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Jacket
“I like to climb, I’m a big climber, and through my charity I do a bunch of big expeditions. So I’ve been up Everest a few times … where you’re dealing with the elements, trying to stay warm and not get cold in different circumstances. You’re trying to find the perfect gear that’s not too heavy and gets the job done. So I’ve experimented with a bunch of stuff, and in 2016 I was on Everest, and I was introduced to this jacket … and I haven’t stopped using it since. It’s just this really lightweight kind of down jacket that folds up super small, it’s super light, and it just has so many different uses. I wear it kind of in between layers, on top of layers, it just stops the wind and just keeps you toasty.”

Peak Design Anchor Links for Camera Straps
“I love taking video of when I travel, when I climb, even for some of my memory videos, I’m shooting them on the go, interviewing people or trying to get a shot while I explain something and sometimes, I like to go really hand-held to get these angles or to just be run and gunning. Other times, I just have to have it’s strapped around my neck and I’m doing something else, holding something else. So, I kind of go in-between those things and I’ve always hated Canon straps that have these double loops that take like, 10 minutes to sit down and fish them through the little loop and all that stuff and I think the Sony’s DSLRs, which I’ve played with too, have these really annoying kind of clips that make noise if you keep them on, so people take them off … this little kind of contraption is basically getting rid of you ever having to do that again … they don’t bother the camera at all, but you can just latch on when you need the strap or not and it’s awesome for dealing with that kind of stuff.”

The Memory Palace Technique
“This technique supposedly was invented by the Greeks thousands of years ago and has been used to memorize massive poems and legions of armies’ fighters names and it’s something people had to use back in the day to store information … The technique works around something that our brains are really good at, which is one, thinking in pictures. … The second step is to take advantage of what our brains are also good at, and that is spatial information. We’re very spatially aware. Our brain is very good at kind of scanning areas and keeping that information within our heads without really trying. And so, if you think about your house for example, close your eyes and picture yourself standing at your front door. I guarantee you, 99.9% of people listening could close their eyes and walk through their whole house without even trouble, right? … So, if you can take those two things, thinking in pictures and using your house or some place familiar, the spatial information that’s already memorized in your mind, you can actually memorize really large amounts of things, and this is the memory palace … Let’s say you’re memorizing all 45 presidents … You would come with a picture for each of the Presidents’ names. So, like, Taft could be a raft, because you’d actually picture a raft, right? Wilson could be a tennis ball, right? Because you think of Wilson tennis, right? Trump’s face is actually memorable, or you could think of an orange … So, you have a picture for each of those things and then what you do is you place the pictures in order, because you want to know the presidents in order, around a path through the place that you’re using as your palace. … So, maybe your picture for Washington is a washing machine filled with a ton of clothes and you picture that washing machine kind of pushed up against the front door and maybe it’s rattling because there’s a ton of stuff in there, it’s really over-loaded and it’s just shaking, making a lot of scary noises and kind of banging up against the door so much so that maybe even the wooden door is splintering and kind of shattering. So you kind of combine the images and have them interact with the space.”

Art of Memory
“This is something I actually helped create with a few other memory friends and it’s basically a place to train your memory. I use it to practice, of course. Teach others as well, these techniques. Play memory games online against other memory enthusiasts and you can actually create your memory palaces through our software online … So, it’s just a great kind of tool. All memory training related. Great resource for learning techniques, practicing them and developing your systems.”

Also mentioned:

Climb For Memory



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23 February 2017



We Refreshed Our Website

If you read Cool Tools via RSS (which is the way Kevin and I read blogs) then you probably don’t realize we updated our website design today. We took your feedback seriously and tried our best to simplify the design and make it more legible.

I’m sure we got some things wrong. If you find a mistake or have suggestions about our current iteration, please let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading Cool Tools and being part of the community.

If I’ve still got your attention, I’d like to remind you that Cool Tools runs reviews written by our readers. Please recommend a tool you love.


Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

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We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.